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Perceptions of industrial design : the "means" and the "ends"

Micheli, Pietro and Jaina, Joe and Goffin, Keith and Lemke, Fred and Verganti, Roberto (2012) Perceptions of industrial design : the "means" and the "ends". Journal of Product Innovation Management, 29 (5). pp. 687-704. ISSN 0737-6782

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Abstract

It is widely accepted that industrial design can play an important role in the development of innovative products, but integrating design-thinking into new product development (NPD) is a challenge. This is because industrial designers have very different perspectives and goals than the other members of the NPD team, and this can lead to tensions. It has been postulated that the communications between NPD managers and industrial designers are made more difficult because each group uses very different language. This research made the first empirical investigation of the language used by designers and managers in describing “good” and “poor” industrial design. In-depth interviews were conducted with a sample of 19 managers and industrial designers at five leading companies. Multiple sources of data were utilized, including the repertory grid technique to elicit the key attributes of design, from the perspective of managers and designers. Using a robust, systematic coding approach to maximize the validity and reliability of qualitative data analysis, it was established that managers and industrial designers do not use a completely different vocabulary as previously supposed. Rather, it was found that managers and industrial designers use some common terms augmented by additional terms that are specific to each group: managers are commercially orientated in the “ends” they want to achieve and designers perceive more antecedents (“means”) necessary to achieve their “ends”—iconic design. This research led to a grounded conceptual model of the role of design, as perceived by managers and industrial designers. The implications of the results achieved are wide: they indicate how managers and designers can interact more productively during NPD; they highlight the need for more research on the language of designers and managers; and they point to issues that need to be covered in the education of industrial designers. Finally, this work suggests how managers and designers can engage in a more fruitful dialogue that will help to make NPD more productive.